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Concerns voiced, tensions high at Caldwell ISD meeting in wake of players' felony charges

Posted at 10:53 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 10:56:31-04

WACO, Texas — The Caldwell ISD school board meeting wrapped up Nov. 3 and tensions were high among spectators.

Many community members took the mic commenting on how the district handled an alleged incident on a school bus over a month ago.

While some said there should be a stronger punishment for the four girls accused of stripping a teammate on the bus, others advocated for them and said it has turned into a metaphorical witch hunt.

"We are upset because right now it looks like Caldwell ISD does not know the difference between right and wrong," Krista Zwernemann said.

"If you continue to act like this we know you're a coward for not expelling the girl because of her name," Mason Hart said.

Some said the talk of right versus wrong has gotten out of hand.

"With your witch hunt... stop it," Mindi S. James Ofcarak said. "Nobody deserves this, the families don't deserve this, the family of who has been bullied, they don't even want this."

Kim Cedidla, mother of Kadie Hartman, one of the four girls accused of stripping her teammate exposing her genitals, took the mic defending the four accused girls.

"The witch hunt that has occurred is something to be ashamed of," Cedidla said.

She said after the alleged incident became public, the four became targets. All of them heard comments on social media and even received death threats. Cedidla said what was in the police reports doesn't match what actually happened.

"My daughter begged for video camera evidence from that school bus, it would have cleared up that day," Cedidla said.

In previous reporting by 25 News, the district told us they did not have cameras on the bus, but now that has changed. She also adds her daughter took a polygraph test and passed with no gray area.

"There were zero signs of deception, [when asked] was their nudity involved," Cedisla said. "She said no and she was telling the truth. 'Did you intend to get her naked?' She said no and she was telling the truth. 'Did you receive or plan to seek sexual gratification?' and she said no and she was telling the truth."

Many of the pointed remarks from the community members didn't concern what police said happened in the reports, but rather how the district handled it all.

"We are upset because no action was taken for the four coaches that was on the bus until it was heard by the media," Zwernemann said.

Some even called for the resignation of staff.

"We first act for Mrs. Gaugh's resignation, the vice-principal of the high school," Jennifer Dailey said. "She is friends with the family. We ask why Mr. Escalante is still teaching when he was one of the teachers on the bus. We also ask for Mr. Goodman to resign as a board member with CISD."

Mark Goodman's daughter Sophie Goodman is another one of the four now facing an indecency with a child charge. Before the session closed, we tried to talk to Goodman, but he wouldn't answer.

For over a week, 25 News has tried to talk to anyone. 25 News called, emailed and showed up to the administration building seeking answers. We never got them. At the meeting on Nov. 3, we asked the superintendent about that before closed session.

"Did any of those phone calls and emails go through," said 25 News Reporter Austin Walker.

"Yes," Superintendent Peters said.

"Any comment on that?"

"They came through but I haven't had the opportunity to respond," said Peters.

While tensions remained high on how to move forward, one woman said to simply do it with grace.

"Fight the fight that you have to fight but do it in a respectful manner," James Ofczarzak said.

Hartman's mother also added the girls did serve time in DAEP or alternative schooling.

Members of the community said it was not the required 30 days as sanctioned by the Texas Penal Code.